Low self-esteem in teen girls can range from expected, to deceptive, to downright dangerous. Of course it’s normal and expected for most teenagers to suffer blows to their self-esteem and identity. The degree to which it affects them, or the duration of the struggle can take the issues of self-esteem to more serious level. Unfortunately, many parents dismiss low self-esteem as normal or “just a phase,” when the repercussions can be more harmful than they realize. When is low-self esteem a problem? Can low self-esteem be fixed? Can fixing low self-esteem prevent or fix depression in teen girls?
Self-esteem is the degree to which we like and value ourselves as individuals. It’s completely natural for teens, especially teen girls, to question their value and experience lower self-esteem as they go through the changes and challenges of puberty. However, many teen girls allow this low self-esteem to persist, and it can grow worse and worse. The inability to perceive one’s own inherent value and to fail to attach self-worth to her own traits and features may lead to depression, anxiety, and reckless behaviors. It’s not uncommon for teen girls with low self-esteem to seek comfort and approval from other sources, such as friend groups, boys, or activities that will only damage her future.
Self-Esteem and Depression
Numerous studies have linked self-esteem and depression. In particular, children and teens with lower self-esteem are at much higher risk to develop depression as adults, which tends to be more permanent and dangerous (Brown 1990). Many reasons are thought to cause this including lack of resilience, inaccurate self-perception, and especially in girls – body objectification. In turn, depression limits a teen’s ability to improve or repair their low self-esteem, causing a vicious cycle that can be destructive.
Are the with higher self-esteem immune from the challenges of depression or anxiety? Of course there are biological, mental, and other external factors that contribute to depression and anxiety. And it is important to note that it’s normal for teens to experience bouts of lower self-esteem.
Much of the effort in teen psychology and depression research is tackling the issue of self-esteem. Helping teens develop healthier self-esteem will decrease the risk of depression and anxiety, as well as the incidence of drug use, criminality, and reckless sexual behaviors during the fragile teen years.
This is easier said than done. If you’re a parent of a teen with low self-esteem the first step is to recognize it. Then begin using every opportunity that comes your way to help your child see their value and positive contributions. With girls it’s also critical to address body objectification. If you find that your daughter’s low self esteem has spiraled into depression or other behaviors that threaten her future, you may need more serious help at a residential treatment center to get her back on track. The effort will be well worth it as she can develop healthier self-esteem and decrease the risk of adult depression.